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by Jason Mittell

p. 113:

Another example from Breaking Bad highlights how ambiguity and intent can manifest themselves differently. In the final scene of season 3, Jesse appears to shoot Gale in an act of desperation. However, the camera angle shifted in such a way that we never saw Gale being shot and that Jesse may have changed the aim of his gun, a camera move that some viewers interpreted as suggesting that Jesse did not actually shoot Gale. In the first wave of interviews after the finale, Gilligan highlights that any ambiguities were unintentional:

“In my mind, no, I don’t intend for there to be any ambiguity. Let me start this by saying I always am reluctant to tell the audience afterward what to think or how to feel. I really prefer it when the audience comes to their own conclusions. . . . I never really intended for there to be any ambiguity. But it’s funny: in the editing room, my editor and some other people were saying that the way it counter-dollies around, it looks like he’s changing his point of aim before he pulls the trigger. . . . I’ve been hearing from the people who’ve already seen it that it looks like he’s changing where he’s aiming. That is not intentional. I did not see it that way when I was directing. It’s not wrong for you to think he shot this guy.”

While Gilligan explicitly asserts his initial intent here and elsewhere, in later interviews he embraces ambiguity and notes that the unintentional openness means that he might revisit his own intent for season 4. Not surprisingly, fans posited their own speculation, drawing on different facets of Gilligan’s statements to support their own theories on whether Gale would live or die. The next episode opened, after a 13- month gap in screen time filled with paratext-driven speculation and anticipation, with a scene of Gale alive and well; it is soon revealed to be a flashback, with the next scene showing Gale’s dead body at the crime scene. Such a sequence invites viewers to posit an authorial presence, playing with their expectations and building on the paratextual conversation about Gale’s ambiguous shooting—we can almost hear Gilligan speaking to viewers in this scene, playfully referencing speculations and debates.

See Complex TV for more clips and contexts.

Other media by this contributor

BREAKING BAD, "Full Measure," concludes with unintentional ambiguity.

In this final moment of the season, a moment of unintentional ambiguity invites the authorial figure to step in and clarify.

from Breaking Bad, "Full Measure" (2010)
Creator: AMC
Posted by Jason Mittell
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